Mark Youssef grew up in Alexandria, Egypt. He graduated from pharmacy school at Alexandria University in 1998. After a few months of working there, Youssef decided to immigrate to the U.S. and moved to New York in 1999.
Youssef had to study again to become a licensed pharmacist in the U.S. He worked at various jobs during his studies, including in restaurants, delivery, and as a truck driver. In January 2004, Youssef acquired his pharmacist’s license in the state of Florida.
Until 2011, Youssef worked for a drug store chain. After that, he decided to open his own business. That same year, he opened a drug store that became very successful. Eventually, he sold his company to CVS Pharmacy.
Youssef recently opened his second drug store, Rite Care Pharmacy. This father of two enjoys saltwater offshore and onshore fishing in his free time. He currently resides with his family in Vero Beach, Florida.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I wanted to be in control of my future. When you’re working for a company, sometimes they give you benefits, a 401K retirement plan, but despite that, you don’t always feel secure. From my experience, even when your performance has been excellent, and the business is making money, they’re still not happy. When you work very hard, there is always something they will find that says you’re not up to their standards. They mince words, and they can get rid of you and hire someone new. It makes you feel like you’re disposable.
I knew I was doing a good job, so I looked at it this way: if I’m doing all this hard work for other people and I’m not getting the appreciation I feel I deserve, I would rather be putting in the same effort for my own business. I knew my business would be successful, so that is what I did. I opened a small business, and by putting in the same amount of effort I had been doing for my previous employer, my business became very successful. So, I’m glad I did it, and in fact, I regret not doing it earlier.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I enjoy interacting with people. When you’re selling medication, it’s not like selling groceries. You interact with the customer. Before you sell it, you must talk with the patient and explain to them how to use the medication. It is imperative because if the patient is not using the medication properly, the medicine is not going to do the job it’s made for. In fact, it can even hurt the patient. So, it is essential that before filling the prescription, I know the patient’s complete profile and review all of the medication that they’re already taking to make sure there is no adverse interaction. I do all these things behind the scenes before the customer comes back to pick up the prescription.
When they do come back, I always have a conversation with them to make sure they will use the medication correctly. This is an advantage that patients do not get when they go to a busy drug store or a big drug chain. They will not get that personal connection with their pharmacist. I know all my customers by name. I know their families, doctors, the medications they’re on. So it’s more personal when customers choose my pharmacy over big chains. This is what I enjoy. I never feel like I’m at work. I feel like I’m at home.
What keeps you motivated?
Seeing the success. You work hard, and you see the results of your hard work and your business growing. It motivates me to do more.
How has your first company grown from its early days to now?
The way my first company grew was through people and word of mouth. When people first came to my pharmacy in the beginning, they were kind of hesitant because I opened across the street from a large drugstore and mine was a small store. Sometimes people judge based on the appearance, so they were hesitant at first to switch to my pharmacy. However, when they experienced the personal touch, connection and customer service of working with a small pharmacy instead of a big drug chain, it made a big difference. My prices are also significantly lower than across the street. So, customers began talking to their neighbors, friends, and families, and suddenly I had all these new customers who would tell me so-and-so referred them. It was like a chain reaction. I watched my pharmacy grow without doing any marketing.
What traits do you possess that make a successful leader?
When you communicate with people, they can feel if you are doing this because it’s your job or because you like doing it. They can feel when you’re giving them attention if it’s because it’s your job to do so, or that you’re giving them your attention because you care. I know that people can feel it. Many of my patients are seniors, age 65 and above, so they have tried several different pharmacies over the years. I work with so many different people, and they can feel the difference when it comes to the personal touch, I give them.
I care about all my patients, and I think of them as family members. Every time I feel a prescription for one of my customers, I feel like I’m filling it for my parents or my wife. When I know of a cheaper version of a prescription a customer is filling, I will discuss it with them to save them money. With their permission, I can discuss it with their doctor and see if we can change the prescription to the more affordable version. Big drug stores would just fill the expensive one and move on. So, I know my customers can see and feel my honesty.
What suggestions do you have for someone who wants to open a pharmacy?
They must be dedicated and put forth the time and effort. That’s important. They need to remember that money is not the top priority. They must plan ahead of time, do the homework, and choose the right location. Research the demographics, prices and find statistics related to the area you want to open a pharmacy. After that, study in finance and technology, computer system equipment, everything your pharmacy will need. You’ll need to know and have all of these things if you plan to compete with other pharmacies. You’ll want to start small and go little by little. There’s nothing right or wrong; it’ll depend on the area and demographic, and several factors that will control it. But, first things first, like I’ve already mentioned. You must study the area. You need to consider the demographics, the competition, the prices, and the household income in the area. Once you’ve done that and everything looks good, then you can start planning the business itself.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
Honesty and dedication. Number one, when you treat your patients, honesty is very important. Number two is dedication, and when you put in all your efforts to help your patients, and you get to see the results from it, you really enjoy it. I give them an antibiotic or other medication for whatever they have, and then they come back in a week, and I see that they’re feeling better. That makes me happy because I was able to help them get better. I look at every customer like a family member, and when a family member is suffering, you want to help them feel better. As a pharmacist, I can do that.
What trends in your industry excite you?
The technological advancement happening everywhere is happening in the medical and pharmaceutical industry as well. Look at HIV, for example. Anyone who tested HIV positive before, it was considered a death sentence. Now, with medications, they can live a regular life and have a family. We are, of course, hoping in the next few years we will see a drug that will completely eradicate the virus. I know that people are working on it. That is the trend that excites me, the trend of progress. Another is cancer. It’s one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Before, people with cancer wouldn’t survive. Now, with medical advancement, medications, and chemotherapy, many can fight and beat the disease. We are hoping to see even more progress and to be able to understand the nature of the disease so we can control it and have higher survival rates.
Where do you see you and your new company, Rite Care Pharmacy, in five years?
I hope to see that my company has grown, and I don’t mean financially. I really want to see how people love it. I felt how much people loved my old place initially when I sold it. When I opened the new one, some of my past customers were very excited that I was back. I didn’t quite believe the amount of love I found from my customers. So, I want to see that for this place as well. I want to see more and more people coming into my pharmacy to shop and purchase their medications. Financial benefits will happen automatically, and I know that, but that is not my target. My target is to see more people love this place, and to interact with more and more people so I can see how my business is making a positive impact on their lives. My first business was very successful, and I predict this one will be the same.